Ruger American .243 Rifle
“Entry level rifle” is a term that describes the inexpensive big game offering a company produces to attract buyers who cannot afford a (new) regular production rifle. Normally these rifles have limited cartridge choices. The initial cartridge offerings of most entry level, big game rifles are .30-06 Springfield and .270 Winchester. If a rifle proves to be popular, the cartridge choices are expanded, often to include .308 Winchester and .243 Winchester.
Entry level rifles are usually push feed bolt actions with an inexpensive matte black metal finish, black synthetic stock, no sights, 22” barrel and blind magazine boxes. Nearly all of them are decent shooters and dependable, although extra care should be taken to keep these rifles clean and rust free.
Entry level rifles interest me and I guess I’ve field tested nearly every model out there. The Mossberg ATR 100 and Marlin X7 stand out in my mind as two of the more impressive entry level rifles I’ve owned and reviewed. There were others, best left unmentioned, that I considered to be junk. A rifle can only be sloppily constructed with cheap components to a point, before it doesn’t provide good service, no matter how innovative the design.
At heart, I’ve always been a Ruger (www.ruger.com) man. I sometimes paid a little more, but always received an excellent mid-priced firearm that usually competed very well against more expensive models. The vast majority of the rifles in my gun cabinet are Rugers. I am especially a Model 77 Mark II fan. When Ruger came out with the Model 77 Hawkeye, I was a little disappointed. Even though I have two Hawkeyes in my gun safe that have proven to be very good rifles, my wife’s left hand action .270 and my .375 Ruger African, I felt that if Ruger was going to “cheapen” their rifles to be competitive, why didn’t the company go all the way? Why not build an entry level Hawkeye with a push feed bolt and tang safety system like the original Model 77, matched with an inexpensive synthetic stock and creep bar trigger system like Savage, Mossberg and Marlin were doing?
Well, Ruger came out with a new entry level rifle and they did not do what I suggested. They went one better. They designed a totally new, very different rifle. The Ruger American is, in my biased opinion, the best entry level rifle to date and the company is selling it at a very competitive price, given today’s inflated gun market. A person can buy a new Ruger American for $375 or less, if he or she shops around. With many lower end rifles selling for at least $330, the Ruger American is worth considering on price alone. When the American’s engineering and construction are considered, an extra $40 or $50 means very little. This is an excellent rifle for the money.
I wanted a windy day coyote rifle to replace a .22-250 Savage I had recently sold. After examining some .30-06 and .270 Ruger Americans at a local gun shop, I contacted the company and ordered a Ruger American in .243 Winchester. In my area, where hunting coyotes, deer, feral hogs and antelope on the same day with the same rifle is very possible, I much prefer the .243 Winchester round over the .22-250 Remington, which is fundamentally a long range varmint cartridge. My Steyr Pro Hunter .243 is an excellent long range rifle, but it is bulky, heavy and sighted for 100-grain loads; not the best combination for run and gun coyote hunting.
The Ruger American has received a lot of praise in the media. The new Marksman trigger features a creep bar that helps prevent accidental discharges. Savage developed this concept for their AccuTrigger and a number of companies have created similar designs. The trigger finger comes in contact with the bar and disengages the trigger when pressure is applied and the bar is brought even with the trigger. The Marksman trigger is fully adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds by means of a screw in the front of the trigger assembly.
The American's black, glass-filled polypropylene synthetic stock has a molded-in "Power Bedding" system. This uses dual, V-shaped, metal bedding blocks that mate to slots in the receiver and secure the receiver firmly in the stock. This system eliminates the need for a separate recoil lug. The stock is not particularly attractive, but it is functional. The forend incorporates a finger groove and there is oversize fluting at the front of the comb. There are molded-in, impressed stippling patterns on the forend and pistol grip for increased traction.
So far, the sling stud attachments have proven strong enough to allow using a Harris bipod without the stud working loose or breaking out the stock. A red Ruger eagle decorates the pistol grip cap and a ventilated recoil pad is included. All of the Ruger American rifles I have examined have stocks that are straight and properly aligned. (Warped and/or misaligned stocks are a common sin of some entry level rifles.)
The American has a tang mounted, two-position safety that allows the chamber to be emptied with the safety "on." The rearward position is "safe," forward is "fire".
The one-piece, full diameter bolt has three front locking lugs, a plunger ejector and a sliding extractor. There is a round bolt knob, streamlined bolt shroud and a cocking indicator. The bolt lift is 70-degrees and is designed to require only six pounds of force to operate. This bolt system is not nearly as sloppy as many entry level bolt actions. Chambering rounds is not as smooth as my Mark II’s, but the American is solid and feels good when working the action.
The receiver lacks the open top of the M77; an oval cut-out serves as the ejection port. Gone are Ruger’s integral receiver bases for scope mounting. They are replaced by conventional, detachable, Weaver style bases. The flush-mounted bolt release lever is at the left rear of the slab-sided receiver.
A free floating, 22” hammer-forged barrel is attached to the receiver by means of a barrel nut, similar to the system developed long ago by Savage. A slick 4-round rotary magazine with an integral release completes the 6.5 pound rifle.
Best of all, my Ruger American is extremely accurate. I mounted an inexpensive Bushnell Banner 4-12x40mm scope, bore sighted it, and was very near the bull’s eye on my first 100 yard shot, using a Harris bipod to steady the rifle. I adjusted the scope for the next shot, adjusted again, and put four, 80-grain Remington Express Core-Lokt rounds neatly inside of an inch square 1.5 inches directly above the bull’s eye.
The following day, again shooting off my Harris bipod, I neatly dispatched two large jack rabbits with two shots at an estimated 200 yards, using Hornady 58-grain V-Max rounds. This rifle feeds more smoothly and seems to be just as accurate as my Steyr Pro Hunter, which wears a Bushnell Elite 3200 4-12x40mm scope. Now, that’s saying a lot, because my Steyr is a very accurate rifle that accounted for virtually all my management deer last fall at ranges out to 250 yards.
Figuring $375 for the rifle, I have a total investment in the Ruger American, including a top of the line Harris 13 ½” to 27” HB25CS swivel bipod, Bushnell Banner 4-12x40 scope and sling, of $610. That’s an impressively modest price for an all new rig that shoots and handles this well.
Ruger took their time coming out with an entry level rifle design. I’ve read articles claiming that Bill Ruger probably would not have liked the Ruger American because it is not “old school” enough. Whatever! Bill liked to shake up the industry and build the best firearms he could for the money. The Ruger American does both very well.
Copyright 2012 by Randy D. Smith and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.